COLUMBIA — Rain might have deterred some from showing up for a day of wildlife education at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area on Sunday, but others were encouraged by it.
“We thought with the rain it would be less crowded,” said Susan Curry of Fulton, who brought her two grandsons to the Missouri Department of Conservation's “Day with Wildlife”.
Susan Schmoker, of the Raptor Rehabilitation Program, offered these interesting facts about Sir Pigeonous, the turkey vulture.
- His stomach acid is so strong it could burn the paint off a car hood.
- He poops on his feet to keep cool. Turkey vultures can't pant like dogs to lower body temperatures.
- He can smell rotting flesh from about two miles away.
- He will eat so much at one time that he can no longer fly.
- He vomits on safety threats as a defense mechanism because he knows the attacker will immediately need to wash off his potent stomach acid.
The day’s activities were an effort to help people better understand and appreciate the outdoors, said department representative Ann Koenig.
The event was previously held entirely indoors in Columbia, but having it at a conservation area allowed for more opportunities to see wildlife, Koenig said. She expected attendance numbers to be down from roughly 1,000 participants in past years.
Curry’s grandson Ethan Shelton, 8, of Columbia, fired a shotgun for the first time at the clay target range. To everyone’s surprise, he hit the 4-inch disk at a range of around 50 meters.
“It was awesome!” Ethan said.
Curry said she thought the activity was rigged until Ethan’s 9-year-old brother, Dylan Shelton, missed. Dylan left happy, too, though — he hit a fake fish at the bow fishing activity.
At Eagle Bluffs' main office, children could pet turtles and various harmless snakes and see live fish and birds of prey native to Missouri.
Five-year-old Mickey Spiess of Columbia did it all. He petted a Great Plains rat snake and a painted turtle and enjoyed seeing the animals at each activity. Asked which was his favorite, he said, “All the animals.”
Susan Schmoker studies fisheries and wildlife sciences at MU and is an education coordinator for the Raptor Rehabilitation Project. She introduced crowds to Sir Pigeonous, a turkey vulture who was hit by a car and taken to the campus veterinary clinic 11 years ago. He was never able to return to the wild but poses with his wings stretched for events such as this.
Eagle Bluffs encompasses roughly 4,500 acres southwest of Columbia and is bordered by the Katy Trail State Park on one side and the Missouri River on the other. The conservation area is open to the public year-round for fishing, camping, hiking, bird watching and hunting. During hunting seasons, daily access is limited.